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Issue Tracker: The (Un)Legislative Calendar

Jul. 15, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Final approach
The House has passed its version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has passed its version. Both would keep weapon systems like the A-10 attack plane alive, while also proposing to keep 11 aircraft carriers. Analysts say both bills amount to winners for the US defense sector. (Courtesy)
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As of July 14, the US House has only two dozen legislative days left before November’s midterm elections; the Senate is scheduled to be in longer, but could also be gone much of October. Here are the top defense issues:

Issue: Defense Authorization Bill

Status: The House has passed its version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has passed its version. Both would keep weapon systems like the A-10 attack plane alive, while also proposing to keep 11 aircraft carriers. Analysts say both bills amount to winners for the US defense sector.

Possible outcomes: A repeat of last year is one, meaning the Senate’s legislation-killing partisan bickering over amendments could again KO the upper chamber’s version of the bill. That would require the House and Senate committees to again craft a compromise bill that could quickly pass both chambers, likely after the Nov. 4 elections. Another is, the Senate debates amendments and passes a bill before then, then both chambers pass a conferenced bill after Nov. 4. Or the 53-year NDAA passage streak would end — as the last acts of HASC and SASC chairmen Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

Issue: DoD Appropriations Bill

Status: The House has passed its defense spending measure, and the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee (SAC-D) will mark up its version July 17. The House bill would provide nearly $600 billion in base and war funding, while following the authorization bills in keeping alive most of the weapons DoD proposed to cut. SAC-D is expected to keep that streak going.

Possible outcomes: The Senate could shock the world and find a way to agree to a floor process that would lead to what’s called “regular order,” meaning both chambers pass a spending bill then head to a conference committee. But that’s a long shot, sources say. It’s a long shot that the upper chamber will pass any agency appropriations measure. That means another governmentwide continuing resolution (CR) or omnibus spending bill is likely. The latter could include a full 2015 DoD spending bill and a few others. But one House source says “no discussions on this have occurred.”

Issue: War Funding

Status: The Obama administration delivered its overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding request more than 100 days after it sent lawmakers a Pentagon base budget plan. In the interim, it asked each defense panel to write their bills with a $79.4 billion placeholder. The White House then sent over a $58.6 billion OCO request.

Possible outcomes: Republicans are vowing to closely scrub the war-funding request, but few have suggested they will seek major changes. The House Armed Services Committee will hold an OCO hearing July 16. Even in the contentious Bush and Obama eras, Congress gave presidents the money they need to wage the country’s post-9/11 wars. So the question is how the OCO gets passed. It could be part of a stand-alone defense appropriations bill. Or it could be part of an omnibus. Or it could pass on its own. Finally, it could be an amendment to a CR.

Bottom line
: Action on the NDAA is more possible before Nov. 4 than a DoD appropriations measure. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30, meaning something — likely a short CR or a big omnibus — will have to happen by then. ■

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